Saint John Vianney
The Importance of Saint John Vianney to our Center
In an effort to establish a behavioral health facility for its priest, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia purchased a family estate just west of Philadelphia in 1946. They converted the 29 room mansion into a behavioral health hospital for priests and religious enlisting local Sisters of Mercy to administer care in the hospital.
The facility was named the Villa of Saint John Vianney placing its patronage under Saint John Vianney who had been canonized only 21 years earlier by Pope Pius X. Choosing this saint, the patron saint of parish priests, was a logical decision, but putting the facility under his patronage truly reflected what John Vianney’s priesthood was about- humility and forgiveness.
In 1999, the Villa of Saint John Vianney was officially renamed The Saint John Vianney Center to better reflect its expanding mission as a healing community of faith.
Throughout the history of the Center, the many priests, brothers, and nuns who have come for healing have found a supportive companion and intercessor in Saint John Vianney.
The Center’s Chapel contains a reliquary of a first class relic of the saint. Many residents take time each morning for prayer at the reliquary before Mass. An additional reliquary of a relic of Saint John Vianney is located in our Administration wing so that staff and visitors can also call upon the prayers of this humble parish priest.
On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Saint John Vianney Center blessed a new reliquary and reposed a first class relic of Saint John Marie-Baptiste Vianney.
The late Bishop Christopher Jones, Diocese of Elphin, Ireland, had received a First-Class Relic of Saint John Vianney from a well-wisher. The Bishop’s nephew, Mr. Hugh Jones of Dublin, a friend of the Saint John Vianney Center, generously gifted this relic to the Center after Bishop Jones’ passing.
Staff and residents joined in the blessing of the reliquary and procession of the relic to its place of repose. The reliquary and relic have been placed in an area where residents, staff, and visitors can visit and offer prayer. A prayer card with a prayer from Saint John Marie-Baptiste Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, is also available.
Saint John Marie-Baptiste Vianney
May 8, 1786 – August 4, 1859
On May 8, 1786 in a small village near Lyons, France, a poor peasant family celebrated the birth of their fourth child, John Marie-Baptiste Vianney. At this time, because of the violence of the French Revolution and the outlawing of Mass, John’s family was forced to attend secret Masses celebrated in local farmers’ barns. Inspired by the brave priests who put their lives in danger every time they celebrated Mass, the young John Vianney wished nothing else than to become a parish priest.
Due to the lack of a formal early education, John struggled with his seminary studies. Because of his poor grades, his bishop had reservations about ordaining John to the priesthood. After some delay and because of John’s refusal to give up, Father John Vianney was finally ordained to the priesthood in 1815 at the age of twenty nine. His bishop cautiously sent him to a small and out-of-the-way village of Ars-en-Dombes where he thought Father Vianney would cause the least amount of harm.
Once he got to his small church in Ars, Father Vianney threw himself completely into his parish ministry. It did not take too long for the people of Ars to become inspired by Father John’s great faith and his dedicated pastoral care. Word of this priest’s spiritual insights and sensitivity began to spread outside of Ars. Soon people from all over France began to travel to see him. Each day hundreds of people would wait in long lines to have Father John hear their confessions and to receive this unassuming pastor’s spiritual advice and encouragement. He remained in Ars until his death at the age of 73 at which time he was held as the most beloved person in all of France.
Saint John Vianney was canonized in 1925 by Pope Pius X and declared the Patron Saint of Parish Priests. Today, he remains a source of spiritual strength and encouragement for priests, religious, and all the faithful.